Why Sutton Hoo's iconic helmet was not in Netflix's The Dig film

The helmet motif at Sutton Hoo

The striking Anglo Saxon helmet motif on the front of the exhibition hall at Sutton Hoo. - Credit: National Trust/Ian Shaw

One feature that is central to the Sutton Hoo story that was not featured in the new Netflix film The Dig is the iconic Anglo-Saxon helmet that is seen by many people as the central symbol of the site.


The helmet motif at Sutton Hoo

The striking Anglo Saxon helmet motif on the front of the exhibition hall at Sutton Hoo. - Credit: National Trust/Ian Shaw

A massive replica of the helmet stands over the main exhibition hall - and a real-sized replica of how the helmet would have looked when new is on display there.

The original helmet found in the ground at Sutton Hoo is on display at the British Museum along with the rest of the treasure unearthed from the site which was first excavated in 1939.

But the archaeologists and excavators of 1939 didn't realise they had found the helmet during that summer. It only started to take shape after the Second World War when specialists started looking at some of the artefacts and realised what they were part of.

The helmet was first reconstructed in 1945-46 before the treasures first went on show at the British Museum - Edith Pretty left them to the museum in her will when she died in 1942.


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During the war they had been stored in an Underground station in London and a full exploration of what had been found only started when peace returned in 1945.

The film "The Dig" finishes when the team of archaeologists pulled out from Sutton Hoo at the outbreak of war - so at that time they did not know about the helmet.

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However the helmet we are now familiar with is not the reconstruction from 1945. The outbreak of war meant that only the main mound was excavated - and the archaeologists knew even then that they had left much in the ground.

A second excavation started in 1965 and lasted six years. That found many more pieces, including more of the helmet. Eventually it was reconstructed again between 1970-71 with about 5,000 fragments. That is the helmet we are familiar with today on show in London.

Replica of the king's helmet

This replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet is on display at the exhibition on the site. - Credit: Phil Morley

There are also replica helmets, including one at Sutton Hoo itself, showing what the helmet would have looked like when new - but the look of the helmet was not known by any of the archaeologists or excavators who spent the summer of 1939 digging up the fragments.


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